Originally penned January 2009 under a different title and updated July 1, 2015
There are a lot of subtleties in tweaking your photographs. Of course, the more you can get right in the camera, the better your image will ultimately be. It goes back to the trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. But with Camera Raw, Lightroom, and other tools, you can bring out the best in your photographs. Remember, what comes out of your camera does not usually totally reflect what you saw when you were attracted to the scene. Think of it as your negative from film days.
Let’s start with a few basics. Lightroom is actually a very easy tool to use, and for those who do not want to go the extra route of layers and other more sophisticated imaging, it may see you through. Remember that Photoshop was created for graphic designers, while Lightroom was created by photographers for photographers. What a concept and what a BIG difference!
I am not going to do a complete how-to, as that can be found in tutorials, books, (see our Resources page) and our workshops. In installments, however, I’ll try to address common areas of confusion as well as give you some hints that I use in processing my own images. Even far more sophisticated users than I have found some of my hints quite useful. Just use this as a guide and develop what works for you. If you try something, make virtual copies (we’ll address this in a future blog) and see how they compare.
Triangles that Control Panels
First, however, I’d like to start with one important basic, and that is the little triangles that control the various panels. These are found at the center of each edge of your Lightroom window. If they are inward-facing and dotted (see below), hover over them, and you will see the panels appear; mouse away from them, and the panels will disappear again. Click on them, and and the triangle will turn solid and face outwards, while the panels will stay visible. This is the before and after way the triangle looks:
Dotted = temporary
solid=permanent and my default most of the time
Click on them again, and they will go back to hover mode. Try it, and you’ll see what I mean. When people lose their panels, it is usually because they have clicked on the triangle by mistake, not knowing what that does.
I prefer to keep the top panel open, as it will show you the status bar of a task such as saving, importing, exporting, creating a contact sheet, etc.
The bottom panel, the part with thumbnails and a black informational band above, is a matter of preference. I have seen lots of people on either side of this “door.” Some prefer to leave it visible, whilst others mouse over it when needed. (Remember the dotted/solid triangles above?)
The easy shortcut for this in any module is pressing the letter “t”. A gray band will appear at the bottom the “light table” and sometimes at the top, as well, if appropriate. You will see it in Library Module / Grid view, but not in Loupe view, because you can’t filter with only one image selected.
What is useful, I find, is to check off some of the items that appear when you click on the triangle in the gray band just below your light table and next to the Continue reading